Archive for March, 2016

Projected 2017 Walt Disney World Tiered Pricing Calendar

by on March 29, 2016

Disney announced tiered pricing for Walt Disney World on February 27, 2016. Last summer Disney did surveys asking people about tiered pricing, so it was not a surprise to see it being implemented (to see the survey Len Testa received last year, take a look at his blog post). The “good” news is that tiered pricing currently only affects one-day tickets and, since most guests buy multi-day tickets, tiered pricing does not affect most visitors. Fred Hazelton’s blog post covered how tiered pricing may affect crowd levels, so in this blog post I’m going to look at how Disney’s value, regular, and peak seasons compare to’s Disney World Crowd Calendar.

Peak pricing in Spring Break, Summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas Value Pricing in Late August and September

Walt Disney World’s tiered pricing can be used as a low definition crowd calendar. Not just because it only has three levels, but also because the level only changes 10 times in 10 months (we don’t know yet what January and February will look like). We know there is more variation in the crowd levels than the tiered pricing calendar suggests; I can only assume that Disney decided having changes every week was just too confusing, but it may also be that they are still planning for the inevitable multi-day ticket tiered pricing.

Here’s what we know based on the dates the tiered pricing calendar shows: For the 308 days that the 10 months covers, 15% of the days are value season, 53% of the days are regular season, and 32% of the days are peak season.

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5 Disneyland Quick Service Items For Under $10

by on March 28, 2016

Disneyland Resort just finished another round of quick service dining price increases. This happens a few times a year so that’s not exactly big news. But if you don’t follow Disney dining prices as closely as we do then some of the prices may surprise you. A basic “Classic Cheeseburger” (found at Hungry Bear Restaurant and other quick service restaurants) is now $11.49, up from $9.99. The Burrito Sonora with Marinated Beef from Rancho Del Zocalo was raised to $12.99 from $11.49. This one hurts: the fantastic Fried Chicken from Plaza Inn is now priced at $17.49, up from an already expensive $15.99. I can go on and on but I figured it would be better if I shared some good Disneyland quick service dining entrees for under $10. Yes, some bargains do still exist.
Corn Dog (Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs – Disneyland, Corn Dog Castle – DCA) – $7.99 


Judging by the length of the lines at Little Red Wagon and Corn Dog Castle, everyone has heard about Disneyland’s legendary corn dogs. Their fame is well deserved and thankfully the price hasn’t  gotten too high yet. A giant hot dog covered in a deep fried batter shell probably isn’t the healthiest option in the world, but there’s something about devouring one of these while touring a busy theme park that feels so right.

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Animal Kingdom Late-Arrival Touring Plan

by on March 28, 2016

Discovery Island (4)A couple weeks ago I tested our computer-optimized touring plans in Walt Disney World. My first post was on how the touring plan software routed me around a bunch of ride breakdowns in the Magic Kingdom. Today’s post is how the software worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Just like the Magic Kingdom, I waited until the last minute to make my Animal Kingdom FastPass+ reservations – actually the night before we visited the park. But I was still able to get FastPass+ reservations for the most popular attractions:

Expedition Everest at 10:15 a.m.

Kilimanjaro Safaris at 2:05 p.m.

DINOSAUR at 3:20 p.m.

Kali River Rapids and Flights of Wonder were closed during my visit, so I didn’t have to worry about it.

Bonus Sleeping-In Possibilities!

I used the Unofficial Guide’s standard Animal Kingdom One-Day Touring Plan and plugged these FastPasses in. The first thing I realized was that the plan wasn’t going to take all day – not even close. So I switched my arrival time to 10 AM, which gave us an extra hour to sleep in. In fact, even with the new nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris and Rivers of Light show, it looks like it’ll be possible to see practically everything in the park even if you arrive around 11 a.m.  That makes the Animal Kingdom a great park to visit after a late night at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot. (We’re also testing a late-arrival plan at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for an upcoming blog post.)

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by on March 26, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort. Currently the Universal Orlando Resort has four on-site hotels, with a fifth (Sapphire Falls) opening later this summer. Disney has three classifications for their resorts: Value (including Pop Century), Moderate (Port Orleans Riverside), and Deluxe (Contemporary). Universal also has three levels: Premier (including Portofino Bay), Prime Value (Cabana Bay Beach Resort), and Preferred, which is where the Royal Pacific Resort resides.


Loews Royal Pacific Resort. (photo by Mike Sperduto)

While Disney runs its on-site resorts, Universal partners with a luxury hospitality company in Loews Hotels. One of the benefits of being run by a third party, is that Lowes has a loyalty program with YouFirst. Many of us have been on Disney vacations dozens (if not hundreds) of times, and unfortunately it doesn’t matter if it’s your first time at Art of Animation or your 50th, what you get is what you get. At Universal you start accruing benefits upon your 2nd stay and can earn privileges such as free room upgrades, late checkout, and even a $100 credit.


Royal Pacific’s courtyard. (photo by Brandon Glover)

While I understand the arguments of staying off-site, for my family, staying on-site is one of our favorite parts of a theme park vacation, especially at Universal. Today we’re going to look at what I believe is the best on-site hotel in Orlando. So sit back, grab an ice cold Jake’s Red Lager, and let’s begin counting down the top six reasons we love Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort starting with…

# 6 – Pool and Beach Areas

The pool at the Royal Pacific Resort is massive. While it is the only resort at Universal without a slide, it does feature the gigantic Royal Bali Sea interactive water play area connected to the pool. This play area is themed to a ship, features water cannons, and seemingly dumps about a million gallons of water on the people playing around it. When I was a kid all the pools were the same shape: a rectangle. If pools and play areas existed like this, I’m not even sure my parents would have been able to drag me away to go to the theme parks.


One of the small islands found inside the Royal Pacific Resort.

For adults, there is plenty of seating, a white sand beach, zero entry, cabanas, two hot tubs, an ice-cream place, and the Bula Bar & Grille. The pool area offers towels, magazines and newspapers to read while laying out in the sun, and games such as ping pong. While there is plenty of covered seating at the Bula Bar, servers will come out to the pool area to deliver drinks and food. Our recommendation: Shipwrecked Loaded Nachos (but you can’t go wrong with the burgers either.)


Royal Bali Sea water feature.


Shipwrecked Loaded Nachos, pound for pound the best food offered pool side in Orlando. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Walt Disney World Newsworthy Notes – 3/25/16

by on March 25, 2016

Spring is here and the busy Spring Break season is upon us! That means we have a few news notes that I need to share with you all to make your upcoming trips better. Here are the details you should be aware of, especially if you’re traveling to Walt Disney World this weekend:


  • Looking for an Easter-inspired cupcake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? You’re in luck! Guests can pick up a white chocolate raspberry Thumper specialty cupcake at the following locations through April 14:
    • ABC Commissary
    • Backlot Express
    • Catalina Eddie’s
    • Fairfax Fare
    • Rosie’s All-American Café
    • Starring Rolls Café
    • Trolley Car Café
  • Guests who would like to play Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure at Epcot will now have the option to use their own smartphone. Guests may still opt to receive a F.O.N.E. or Field Operative Notification Equipment to help maneuver through their mission as well, if they choose, but for the first time, Guests will have the option.

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In Case You Missed It: Disney News and Rumors – Week of March 25, 2016

by on March 25, 2016

ICYMIHappy Easter everyone! I hope you enjoy your Easter weekend and that if you’re traveling, you travel safe.

This week, I have a great Zootopia nail tutorial, a way to potentially meet Chris Pratt, and much more. Are you ready to gain some premium knowledge? Than let’s get started!

In Case You Missed It – Disney and Universal Orlando News and Rumors


A small fire broke out at the Festival of the Lion King earlier this week. No injuries occurred.

This is such a tragic story and makes me want to put out the reminder. If you are struggling with depression and thinking about taking your own life, there is help. Call 1 (800) 273-8255. And know that there are people out there who care.

Muppets Courtyard…it could be a thing at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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What to Expect With New Live Entertainment Offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on March 25, 2016

©Rikki Niblett

©Rikki Niblett

Details are slowly trickling out about the new nighttime experiences that will be a part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom beginning on April 22. Last week, we learned about what Guests can expect with Kilimanjaro Safaris. We now know some more information about what Guests will be able to experience during the nighttime entertainment offerings.

Each night, there will be two evening parties. The Discovery Island Carnivale invites Guests into a dance party experience that features Latin drumming and worldly rhythms. The Discovery Island Carnivale will occur on Discovery Island. The Carnivale will celebrate the magic of nature and will include Spirited Islanders, who are dancers and stilt walkers; The Viva Gaia band; and Danza del Arpa, a Paraguayan harpist.

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Dining Review: Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe

by on March 25, 2016

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the Walt Disney World landscape in recent months has been Disney Springs – new shops and restaurants galore, with many more still on the way. Recently, I dropped in for a meal at one of the mainstays of the West Side portion of Disney Springs, Wolfgang Puck Grand Café (located just across from the AMC theater and next to Bongo’s Cuban Cafe) to see if it was still worth a visit with all the new competition. This restaurant is divided into three portions – an outdoor Express location with a limited menu, the main downstairs area (the Grand Café itself), and the Dining Room upstairs. An easy way to think of these three portions: Express is like the quick service-y option, Grand Café is the standard table service (think of The Wave at Contemporary Resort), and Dining Room is a little like the signature table service – this should help understand the offerings (and prices) available at each. Conveniently, they place menus for each of the three outside the restaurant, so you can sneak a peek before committing to your chosen location.

Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe’s exterior draws in guests with a facade reminiscent of the 90s.

The Grand Café is 90s décor heavy, and looks much like the gaudy exterior on the inside – you’re definitely not here for the ambiance, though there are nice views of the water through the large window walls on the back side of the restaurant. My first impression of the restaurant upon being seated for my early dinner reservation was one of utility – based on the worn carpet and tables, it’s pretty clear this restaurant sees a lot of people every night. That made me pretty hopeful for great food. I was a little worried I’d never find out, though, as it took about ten minutes for a server to greet my table (odd, considering there was only one other table seated in the entire dining area – clearly not very busy at that time). Eventually, a very nice server came over to take my drink order and offer a few recommendations. I was pretty excited that she was clearly not just trying to sell the most expensive thing on the menu to me by suggesting it as her favorite dish, like you often see at other restaurants. I was selecting my meal from the dinner menu, which features moderately-priced, simplified American and Italian classics and sushi. I chose the Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with mashed potatoes, crispy onion strings, & port wine sauce and one of their famous pizzas, Pepperoni Pomodoro with caramelized onions, basil, & parmesan. Pizzas are available all day (as well as at the Express portion of the restaurant), and the meatloaf dish makes an appearance on the lunch menu as a sandwich (and was recommended by my server), so these seemed to be pretty representative of the food most diners would get from this location.

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Disneyland AtMousePhere

by on March 24, 2016

disneylandtrainWelcome back to the AtMousePhere series, where we take a look at some of the great background music of the Disney Parks! After thoroughly exhausting the background music of Walt Disney World, we’re hopping across the country to the Disneyland Resort.

It is well known that Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom are very similar in nature. In the background music, there are similarities and differences. We’re going to do a land-by-land roundup of the background music today. I’ll include a handy-dandy link to our Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere posts, just in case you missed it a few years back. So put on your favorite piece of Disneyland music, and let’s take a tour around Walt’s park!

Disneyland Entrance

The Esplanade that divides Disneyland and Disney California Adventure offers a nice variety of movie and park tunes that put guests squarely in the Disneyland mood. They are really great arrangements and orchestrations, too! Some are repeats of the entrance to the Magic Kindgom, but not all of them.

Music includes:

  • “You Got a Friend in Me” (from Toy Story)
  • “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee” (from Pinocchio)
  • “Under the Sea” (from The Little Mermaid)
  • “California Girls” (the Beach Boys version, instrumental)
  • “Hooray for Hollywood”
  • “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)”
  • “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile” (A Merrie Melodies tune from 1931 that was used in Who Framed Roger Rabbit)
  • “it’s a small world”
  • “March of the Cards” (from Alice in Wonderland)
  • The theme from Star Wars (…all of them)
  • The theme from “The Muppet Show”

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, March 24, 2016: Shanghaied!

by on March 24, 2016

2016-03-13 12.11.44What do Floridians do on Spring Break? They travel away from Florida, of course. (At least that’s what I did this week.) Meanwhile, as I mentioned in my last BWE article, my husband is in Shanghai, helping get some finishing touches ready for the big launch of the Shanghai Disney Resort opening in June. As his pictures and experiences in Shanghai are more interesting than my trek up the I-95 corridor, I figured I’d share some of what you might see if you plan to visit Shanghai.

Something to keep in mind is that the city of Shanghai is the 3rd most populated city in the world. With almost 23 million people, Shanghai city has a higher population than the entire state of Florida. Hotels and restaurants are plentiful, mass transit is inexpensive and convenient, and there’s always something to see and do. Although some people speak English, the Shanghainese dialect of Chinese is the primary language, and you may be at a disadvantage trying to read signs in stores and restaurants.

2016-03-11 12.38.52

When it comes to dining, there’s more traditional foods, like this dish of noodles and spicy minced mushrooms.

2016-03-10 12.46.23

And then there’s places like Cozi Hotdog, which specializes in corn dogs — in flavors such as crisp potato, “explosive plasma cheese”, wasabi fish roe, dried meat floss, and lobster salad (which apparently are slathered all over a traditional corn dog). The motto of the place, written in English, is “Hot Dog is Not Dog”. Very reassuring.

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